Rocket Technology and World War Two

Rocket Technology and World War Two

Rockets started to be use as a key facet of effective warfare during World War Two. German V-1 and the V-2 rockets were launched at civilian targets; the Russian Katyusha missile was used for supporting the Russian infantry as they marched to Berlin; and rockets were fired at trains from planes during Operation Overlord. However, developments in rocketry had lagged behind plane and tank developments during the 1930s, especially in Allied countries. World War Two incentivised developments in rocket technology, culminating in the development of the German V-2 and, after World War Two, the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) of the Cold War.

The Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) is considered one of the founding figures in modern rocketry. Ever since 1903, Tsiolkovsky developed the theoretical formula for a rocket which was powered by liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The American scientist Robert.H. Goddard (1882-1945) was also a notable figure in the development of modern rocketry. In 1926 he successfully launched the first liquid-fuelled rocket.

A German V-2 rocket fired by the British during Operation Backfire, 1945, Science Museum
A German V-2 rocket

In the 1930s, the German military started to consider the potential usefulness of rockets in warfare. The Treaty of Versailles had imposed stringent restrictions on Germany's artillery force, which prompted the Germans to consider rockets as a possible alternative to (or improvement on) long-range artillery fire. Wernher von Braun, a German rocket science, helped develop several German rockets. By 1943, the V-2 rocket was produced. This rocket could travel up to 300 km, and a later version could hit targets with moderate accuracy. It was fired at Britain, France and Belgium. In England, approximately 6,500 people were injured and around 2,700 people killed by the V-2. rocket.

Allied rockets were less sophisticated. The Allies and the Soviet Union mainly used unguided rockets such as the Katyusha rocket.

See also: Germany and Rocket Development

 

 

MLA Citation/Reference

"Rocket Technology and World War Two". HistoryLearning.com. 2015. Web.